Correction to story on the regeneration of Limerick
A story on the regeneration of Limerick in the January 2008 issue of Village (printed edition) incorrectly states that Mary McAleese was a reporter with Today Tonight when it recorded a programme on social exclusion in Southill in 1982. Mary McAleese was a lecturer in the Law Department at Trinity College Dublin at the time and appeared on Today Tonight as a panelist, not a reporter. Mary McAleese had previously been an reporter with RTE but Hilary Orpen undertook this particular report from Southill.
While the article incorrectly states the capacity in which McAleese appeared on the programme, it correctly records what she said and the tenor of her argument. Following a graphic report by Ms Orpen on the problems of poverty, education, crime and disorder arising from the government's neglect of Southill, Ms McAlesse likened Southill's problems to those endured by Catholic areas in Northern Ireland following their abandonment by successive governments. In relation to Southill she said: “There is a serious area of deprivation here, a cycle of poverty and deprivation which is leading people, descending people, down into the criminal milieu. What I'm afraid of in an area like Southill... is that we have an army of alienated children just waiting for the call.”
Today Tonight's 1982 report recorded conditions of extreme poverty and hopelessness among a population of 6,000 people in a the small, densly-housed estates of O'Malley Park in Southill. Two-thirds of Southill's population in 1982 were under the age of 18. Ninety-four percent of children left school at the age of 16 and fifty per cent of Southill's male population were unemployed. There were no facilities or amenities for the huge young population. Nor was it possible for young people with an address in Southill able to get a job in the wider mid-west region due to widespread negative perceptions of the estate. Crime, joyriding and vandalism were starting to become serious problems.
On the Today Tonight programme, then Cabinet Minister Ray Burke criticised the report as being unbalanced. He defended the quality of the housing build in the estate. Mary McAleese called Mr Burke's reaction to the report cynical. The late Jim Kemmy, the social democratic politician from Limerick, appeared in the report and made patently clear the need for serious interventions by governmnet and the public services in employment, youth services and crime prevention. Kenny said that administrators in the public services chose to ignore the problems faced by communities in Southill.
Successive government's in Ireland since 1982 have also abandoned Southill, and indeed the people in these estates have descended "down into the criminal milieu" as Mary McAleese foresaw. Despite several reports since 1982 to repeat the same problems, Southill now has the most acute social problems in the country. Brendan Kenny, the chief executive of the agencies responsible for the regeneration of Southill and Moyross described Southill as being "on the verge of anarchy".
Residents in 1982 described Southill as a 'timebomb', an 'explosive situation'. Residents told Village in 2007 of the explosion of violence and intimidation in the past decade in these estates. The January 2008 edition of Village describes the extreme anti-social behaviour and poor living conditions that persist for the residents of Southill and Moyross. Village also spoke to Brendan Kenny about the the prospects for regeneration in each community.